Pinellas Technical College helping fill nursing shortage

Approximately 200 family members and friends attended the Practical Nurses Pinning Ceremony Nov. 1 to cheer on the 29 traditional and on-line graduating students.

ST. PETERSBURG — “It can’t be said in words how proud of her I am. She didn’t disappoint herself, nor did she disappoint any family members,” said proud papa Boe Norwood about his daughter Brittney’s graduation from the Practical Nursing program at Pinellas Technical College St. Petersburg campus (PTC-SP).

Norwood, who is also the director of PTC-SP, and approximately 200 other family members and friends attended the Practical Nurses Pinning Ceremony Nov. 1 to cheer on the 29 traditional and on-line graduating students.

These graduates spent the last 15-months sacrificing their social lives as they studied through the night to become equipped with the knowledge to sit for the Florida State Board of Nursing Exam to become licensed practical nurses (LPN).

“The program serves this community in many ways,” said Christina Cox, a practical nursing instructor. “These young people that come to this school are here to embark on a new adventure in their life, and this is what this program is here for.”

She encourages her students to further their education by attending school to become a registered nurse (RN). And with an articulation agreement in place, PTC sends a steady flow of students to St. Petersburg College, bypassing any waitlists.

A teacher for 25 of the more than 40 years she’s been in the medical field, Cox said she could have gone to any school to teach, but she chose PTC.

“Not only this program, but this college is the best-kept secret in Pinellas County,” said Cox, who is soon to retire. “I really chose to come here because I love adult education.”

As Cox is winding it down, students such as Laquana Davis are just getting started. A certified nursing assistant (CNA) at Bon Secours, she plans to move up in her job after she receives her license.

On top of attending PTC Monday through Friday, Davis also worked double shifts – 16 hours – on Saturdays and Sundays.

“By the grace of God, I made it,” said Davis, who plans to attend SPC for their RN program.

Ebony Green, 27, is also a CNA and has been with BAYADA Home Health for seven years. Since she’s paying out of pocket, she plans to work for a year and save money before enrolling in an RN program.

The healthcare field is in desperate need of qualified workers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the need for an additional 203,700 new RNs each year through 2026 to fill newly created positions and to replace retiring nurses.

Cox said when she entered the nursing field in 1978, there was an “overabundance” of nurses, but the Baby Boomer generation is soon retiring, except for new graduate Brenda Morris.

A certified medical assistant for more than 20 years, Morris always wanted to be a nurse, but family came first. When she found herself an empty nester, she jumped at the chance to go back to school.

Once Morris passes her state board exam, she has a job waiting for her.  But don’t think that’s the end of her story, she plans to become a registered nurse, proving that age is nothing but a number.

Thirty-year-old Kecia Lewis’ mother worked in the medical field, and she’s been a CNA for more than 10 years. Between school, work, and taking care of her two sons, the past 15 months were very grueling, but her support system kept her eyes on the prize.

“Without my mom, I wouldn’t have made it,” said Lewis, who will start SPC in January to complete her prerequisites before enrolling in the RN program next fall.

Practical Nursing Instructor Cynthia Jenkins graduated from PTC in 1985 from the program she now teaches. She was content with being an LPN working in maternity until she found herself continually training RNs.

Jenkins decided to go back to school and become a registered nurse at age 40.

“You have to be a person who wants to do this job for the people, not for money because it is hard work,” stated Jenkins. “You can’t just do it for the money because if you do, you’re going to burn out quick and not give good-quality care.”

Once the graduates were adorned with nursing pins by the faculty as a symbolic welcoming to the profession, refreshments were served.

A new cohort for the traditional Practical Nursing program begins on the St. Petersburg campus on Jan. 13, and hybrid classes start Jan. 17 on the Clearwater campus. For more information, visit

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